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FOR THE URBAN WAVE hunt- ers of Colorado, there is no such thing as an off-season. Any time of year they can be

found squeezing a session be- tween work shifts, home life and the daily grind. You can pick them out a mile

away. They’re the only people wandering the streets of down- town Denver with wet hair, and wearing

board shorts under

their parkas in February. You’ll spot them changing into dress pants and blazers in the park- ing lot next to the South Platte River, which drains snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains and flows through the capital, head- ing north towards Nebraska. Confluence Park, a 100-yard run in the core of a

whitewater downtown Denver, offers

dam-controlled course with de- cent drops and eddies for squirt practice and play boating—a


prime play spot in the cold sea- son and the perfect location for a pre-work session. The run begins under the

swooping roller coasters of the Elitch Gardens Theme Park and travels under the ornate Speer Boulevard Bridge into the park basin. For regular Confluence kay-

aker and pro photographer Pe- ter Holcombe, it’s all about the scenery. Bikers, skateboard- ers, runners, hula-hoopers and hand-holding couples on park benches wallpaper the unique river run. “While you’re sitting in the

eddy trying to catch your breath there’s always something to look at,” he says. “I’ve had old retired couples out on a walk start cheering for me.” Holcombe says the park gives

a new meaning to a ‘quick and dirty’ session.

“It’s never like a beautiful

mountain stream,” he says. The run has been nicknamed Confluenza Park for the gutter runoff that makes it into the river—piles of dog poop from city gutters flow downstream and mountains of sudsy foam collect in the eddies. It doesn’t stop Holcombe from getting out on the water. “It’s urban boating so that’s

just how it is,” he says, jok- ing that if anything his time at Confluence has made his im- mune system stronger. Holcombe gladly puts up with

the city runoff for the benefits of boating year-round. Just 15 miles west of Con-

fluence, the Clear Creek White Water Park in Golden boasts the crème de la crème of

the state’s whitewater of-

ferings. But when those runs freeze in December, Conflu- | 23

ence, however cold, remains unfrozen thanks to Denver’s city drainage. The park has no regular

maintenance crew but volun- teers recruited by Colorado Parks and Recreation organize a cleanup once a year. Mick Ralph calls himself the

King of Confluence since he’s paddled there for 15 years. He says one time authorities were called in when a slew of kay- akers were spotted “struggling” in the water on a particularly snowy day in early spring. “Someone must have seen us

and thought we were in dan- ger,” he says. An ambulance, fire truck and

the police arrived on scene to find a crew of happy paddlers throwing ends in a hydraulic. KATRINA PYNE

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